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Homes and Gardens – Winter Gardening Tips 

800px-rohdea_japonica_lily_of_china_convallariaceae_flowerPermaculture is the new buzzword on the Spanish street – or should that be garden – and as here in Spain we’re lucky enough to enjoy the Mediterranean climate all year round, albeit with a drop in temperature during the winter months, it is possible for the green fingered among us to enjoy our leafy endeavours whatever the weather.

The rainfall that we do experience during these colder months offers great conditions for plant life. According to Permaculture gardener Judith Goldsmith: “…winters are better for growing many crops because winters are the time when we can garden using just the natural rainfall. Most of the leafy vegetables, which go to seed in too-hot summers, grow much better in mild winter climate areas during winter. And (in some countries with Mediterranean temperate conditions) the ground is still warm even as the air starts to get cooler, and it’s actually also a great time for planting most trees, shrubs, ground covers, and grasses.”

A garden full of winter colour

sedumautumnjoy_jwb_2_xlgDick and Clodagh Handscombe are active gardeners and gardening authors living in Spain for twenty five years – (see their site Gardening in Spain & Other Mediterranean Situations here) says it’s important to hold back on the pruning and tidying if we want a beautiful garden for the yuletide season. “With Christmas just over a month away, an overgrown but colourful garden is just right for the holidays. It’s time to make the garden more presentable without reducing the chance of colour at the yearend before starting the annual winter cut back in earnest… remember this is a great time for cuttings and these should be potted up now to produce new plants for spring.”

Luckily for Spain dwellers, evergreens – both the flowering varieties and non-flowering – can offer a shot of garden grandeur in the winter months; and these include: (images to follow)

1. Viola tricolor – Pansy

2. Rosa rugosa – Rugosa Rose

3. Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ – Autumn Joy

4. Arum italicum – Italian Arum

5. Acorus gramineus – Sweet Flag

6. Rohdea japonica – Lily of China

7. Dianthus gratianopolitanus – Cheddar Pink

8. Iberis sempervirens – Candytuft

9. Helleborus

10. Erica carnea – Winter Heath

11. Liriope muscari and spicata – Lilyturf

12. Ophiopogon planiscapus – Black Mondo Grass

13. And Vetiver – recently introduced to Spain from India in the last five years.

For the foodies:

Both leafy vegetables and root vegetables, which ideally would have been planted in the autumn months, will produce great harvests during the cooler winter months. The tops of root vegetables for example will perish with any ground rosa-rugosa-rugosa-rosefrosts – but the main body of the vegetable will still be super-tasty. Carrots can also be planted during the winter months – providing that the weather is still ‘warm’ and will provide a great harvest ready for eating in the spring.

Judith says that as long as the temperatures are still warm enough and the cold snap hasn’t yet started, that the following can also be planted now: “Perennials such as rhubarb, artichoke, chayote, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), sorrel, salad burnet, winter savory, currants, Florence fennel, and gooseberries; “weeds” like dock, nettles, sow thistle, dandelions, and shepherd’s purse; fava / broad beans (often planted to enrich the soil as a ground cover but also a great food crop), and snap peas (sugar snap/sugar/ China peas); and members of the Allium genus, including garlic and shallots (neither of which will be ready until summer but which need a long growing season), “bulbing” onions, green onions (also called bunching onions or scallions; includes Welsh onions), chives, rocambole, and leeks are all strong growers in a Mediterranean temperate country such as Spain during the winter months.”

Dick and Clodagh are also growing mushrooms in the garage: “It has been possible to buy blocks of spore impregnated straw and compost blocks for growing healthy oyster and shitake mushrooms, and they are now installed in the garage under a west facing window to provide good growing conditions. With luck there will be harvests for the Christmas period!”

For those who have established gardens full of nature’s great bounty, harvesting winter fruits from trees and bushes such as winter apples, persimmon, and all of the citrus family – orange, lemon, lime, tangerine, grapefruit, etc. – as well as nuts (including the winter favorite, chestnut) is a great way to spend the day during the winter months.

Enjoy the bounty!

Meryl Cubley

UK Spain Life.

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